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Tesla engineer says company faked "full autopilot" video: report

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A Tesla video purported to demonstrate the automaker’s autonomous driving capabilities was indeed staged, according to claims by a senior engineer at the company reported by Reuters.

The video was shared in a 2016 blog post entitled “Full Self-Driving Hardware on All Teslas”, which is still available. Before the nearly 4-minute video begins, the screen flashes with text reading: “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.”

The video then shows a Tesla pulling out of a garage, stopping at intersections and red lights, traveling on a highway, delivering a person to an office complex, then parallel parking, to the tune of “Paint it” by the Rolling Stones. . Black.” The driver’s hands hover just below the steering wheel during the video.

CEO Elon Musk promoted the demonstration on Twitter, writing: “Tesla drives itself (no human intervention)”.

But a senior engineer now says the footage was staged, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

The news service cited testimony from Ashok Elluswamy, the company’s director of Autopilot software, which was taken as part of a lawsuit over the 2018 death of a driver in a Tesla.

“The intention of the video was not to accurately portray what was available to customers in 2016. It was to portray what was possible to incorporate into the system,” Elluswamy said, according to a transcript of his testimony cited by Reuters.

Elluswamy said the car was driving a predetermined route in the video and that drivers stepped in to take control during the tests, Reuters reported. He also testified that, during attempts to show that the Model X could park itself without a driver, a test car crashed into a fence in the Tesla parking lot, Reuters reported.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On its website, the company warns that “until truly autonomous cars are validated and approved by regulators, drivers are responsible and must remain in control of their cars at all times.”


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Lawsuits by family members of accident victims

Elluswamy’s testimony was taken as part of a lawsuit in the death of Walter Huanga 38-year-old Apple engineer who died in 2018 after his Tesla crashed into a median on California’s Highway 101. The lawsuit, filed by Huang’s widow, alleges that Tesla promoted its self-driving systems as safer than they actually were.

“Tesla is beta testing its Autopilot software on active drivers,” said Mark Fong, a lawyer for the family, in a statement.

Huang believed that his Model X “was safer than a human-operated vehicle because of [Tesla’s] claimed technical superiority over the vehicle’s cruise control system,” the lawsuit states. According to the complaint, after Huang’s death, the automaker added safety features to the power steering system, including the ability to change lanes. independently, transition from one highway to another, pull off the highway and activate automatic emergency braking. These features would have saved Huang’s life, the lawsuit claims.

The Huang family’s lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in March. The suit is one of several the company faces from families of dead drivers. Since 2016, road safety regulators have investigated 35 crashes involving Teslas in which 19 people died, according to the Associated Press.

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